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City Council Votes for New Construction in Irvine to Be All-Electric

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During the March 28th meeting, the City Council voted to have Irvine join dozens of other California cities by requiring that all new construction (residential and commercial) be all-electric and not use natural gas, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
 
“There’s a sense of urgency here,” said Councilmember Kathleen Treseder in making the motion to adopt the new building ordinance. Electrification of new construction would be a major step toward the City’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030, she said.
 
City staff informed the Council that 33% of Irvine’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. Building emissions are mostly methane, the main component of natural gas. As a pollutant, methane is more than 80 times as effective as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere and driving global warming.

Treseder’s motion called for the new ordinance to take effect in June 2023. However, Councilmember Tammy Kim attempted to push the effective date back, stating that the building industry had requested the delay.

When Treseder appeared to consider Kim’s request to delay the effective date, Councilmember Larry Agran spoke up. Agran reminded his Council colleagues that Irvine has been slow on this environmental issue, with more than 70 other California cities — including Los Angeles — having already adopted building electrification ordinances. Agran also pointed out that Irvine’s two largest developers, FivePoint and the Irvine Company, have not requested the delay.
 
Before passing the “first reading” of the ordinance, the Council pared down a list of exemptions included in the draft presented by City staff. As finalized, the exemptions will be for restaurants that require open-flame cooking for their cuisine, such as Korean barbecue; water heating for multi-family buildings (this exemption expires in one year); and special circumstances where a critical business or safety system needs natural gas and there’s no electric alternative.
 
The ordinance will come back to the Council for a “second reading” and final adoption next month, and become effective June 1st.

Roger Bloom

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